Updated on September 13, 2015
5 Things I Want People To Know About……… Deaf Culture Guest Blogger: Kathy Schroeder
I was the little girl out in public embarrassing my parents by staring at people using sign language. I have been fascinated with the beauty of the language for as long as I can remember.
Over the years, I bought some books to try to teach myself, but with out accountability and encouragement I gave up easily.
I accepted Christ in 2002 and in 2003 God put it in my heart to pursue learning ASL [American Sign Language]. I took an 8 week class through Lancaster Parks & Recreation and was hooked. I then took the 8 week follow up class. I invited the instructor to church and God provided an interpreter. That was the beginning of the Deaf ministry at Grace Chapel. I have been involved in the local Deaf community since then.
My instructor, who was Deaf, encouraged me to continue at AVC [Antelope Valley Community College] . I figured I’d take ASL 1 and 2 for fun. It turns out I had a natural aptitude for it and my teachers advised me to continue. The next thing I know, I am enrolled in the interpreting program. Because the classes must be taken consecutively it took me five years to complete the program.
During that time I had no idea that God was preparing me to step into the role of the lead interpreter at Grace Chapel [Lancaster, CA] when the current interpreter moved out of state.
Here are 5 Things I Want You To Know About Deaf Culture:
#1 Deaf people have their own culture the same way that other people groups have their own culture. They have grown up with experiences that hearing people could never understand. Putting ear plugs in for a day to ‘experience’ what it would be like to be deaf isn’t even the tip of the ice berg. Imagine going through your whole childhood with everyone sitting around the table with lips moving, people laughing, and having no idea what is being discussed.
#2 When referring to someone who has grown up Deaf and been raised culturally Deaf, it is appropriate to use a capital ‘D’ for Deaf. A person who loses their hearing due to the natural aging process on an injury is termed ‘deaf’ with a lower case ‘d’. As an example, I have friends who are a married couple. One is Deaf with a capital ‘D’ as she was born Deaf, raised Deaf culture and went to residential school for the Deaf. Her husband lost his hearing when he was 30 years old. He is deaf with a lower case ‘d’. He did not have the same life experiences of a Deaf person. His English is perfect although over the years, he has acquired a ‘deaf accent’.
#3 American Sign Language (ASL) is the accepted language of the Deaf community. It is not in any way related to English. The two languages are as unrelated as French and English. Some Deaf have learned some level of English as a second language. Others have had no exposure to a second language. Referring to the Deaf as illiterate because they don’t use proper English would be like referring to English Speakers as illiterate for not knowing Spanish while in Mexico. Sadly, most parents of Deaf children NEVER learn ASL. Hearing people who want to learn a second language can go to the country of origin to immerse themselves in the culture and language. There is no such place for hearing people to learn ASL, other than to hang around Deaf friends.
#4 Most Deaf do not read lips. Reading lips would require a high level education in English. Deaf think in concepts, not English words or phrases.
#5 Most Deaf are proud of their culture and do not want to be pitied for being Deaf. They can do everything a hearing person can do except hear. While they need to utilize interpreters for some situations, they don’t need our ‘help’. When communicating with a Deaf person using an interpreter, look directly at the Deaf person, and not at the interpreter. Speak in first person directly to the Deaf person.
Note From LeAnn: Kathy Moxey Schroeder will be teaching a Basic Sign Language Class beginning September 16th and running for 13 Weeks at Grace Chapel 44648 15th St West Lancaster, CA 93534 This class is open to the public and is free of charge. Please contact me for further in formation and I can help you get in touch with her.